1st African-American to remain on Pointes council

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News
Sierra Leone Donaven is the first African-American to serve on the Grosse Pointe Farms City Council. She is pictured here outside of her Grosse Pointe Farms home which she purchased in 2011.

Grosse Pointe Farms — A woman poised to become the first African-American council member in any of the five Grosse Pointes says she's continuing onto her seat despite some questioning her past. 

Sierra Leone Donaven, 58, is scheduled to be sworn in as a member of Grosse Pointe Farms' city council on Aug. 13 after receiving a unanimous appointment from the panel during a July 12 meeting to fill a vacant seat.

Despite feeling she should resign Friday, Donaven said she will remain on council.

"In the last 24 hours, I've received support from the entire city council so I am going to continue on and I'm very happy," Donaven said Saturday. 

Donaven said she was visited at her home Friday by Mayor Louis Theros and Councilman Lev Wood to discuss an anonymous letter the mayor received that tipped him off on a misdemeanor case against her that was dropped more than a decade ago when she was a federal investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Detroit.

Theros asked her to notify each of the other councilmembers to determine whether they would still support her, she said.

“The mayor said he did not ask me to resign,” Donaven told The Detroit News after their meeting. “He clarified that he will support me and said he did not want me to resign.”

The point of concern is that in 2005, Donaven was accused of using a government database to alert a convicted drug dealer about the status of federal investigations.

She was charged in U.S. District Court with a misdemeanor count of computer fraud for using the Treasury Enforcement Communications System to search for information about a drug dealer with whom she had a “personal relationship,” the government alleged at the time.

But in 2006, a federal judge dismissed the charges and the Justice Department abruptly dropped the case without presenting evidence or going to trial. Donaven, who retired in 2004 after 20 years on the job, consistently denied any improper conduct.

"The case was dismissed," she said. "The matter was addressed truthfully, completely and resolved.”

Donaven told Theros she wouldn't step into the position if she was not fully supported — and on Saturday, she said she's confident she is. 

"I value Sierra, and I expressed as much to her," Theros said. "She brings great perspective and experience to the table. ... I hope it ends with a valued person serving the city that we all love and admire." 

Read more: First African-American’s rise to a Grosse Pointes council in doubt